July 1st is an important day.
For many, it’s a new fiscal year. For others, it’s the halfway mark.
Either way, it’s a good time to pause and evaluate where you are.
Sometimes we all get so busy with the doing that we don’t do enough of the thinking.
One of the biggest mistakes I see nonprofit leaders make is that they’re so busy doing fundraising that they don’t take the time to evaluate whether the activities are bringing them the return that they want. In other words, they don’t stop to see if they are doing things that are actually raising the kind of money they want and need to fully fund their budget and change lots of lives.
Now is a REALLY good time to evaluate and see what needs to change in the coming 6 months.
I remember when I was a Development Director at an organization with a July-June fiscal year. It was a bittersweet time – I’d feel really good about what I just accomplished in the previous year, and suddenly it was July 1, and I was back to zero.
Most of the time, I was okay with that, because I had a plan and I knew what I needed to do in the coming year.
I know not everyone has that confidence.
So, let’s make it simple.
Let me give you 3 things to focus on that will make a HUGE difference in your results this year.
These are really simple, so don’t dismiss them. They’re very powerful. The smart and successful nonprofits will be practicing these 3 ideas this year.
Let’s make this your best year ever. Make it the Year of the Donor.
The days of everything being all about you and your Annual Fund and your budget are over. It’s time to be all about your non-profit donor and her interests. It’s time to understand her and what makes her tick. It’s high time to find out what she cares about and how she wants to be communicated with. No more guessing – it’s time to work from fact.
So, how do you make it the Year of the Donor?
Commit to these 3 practices this year and watch things change.
1. Pay more attention to donor retention than to funding your budget.
It’s a sad fact: if you’re an average nonprofit, you’re losing more donors than you’re attracting these days. And why are they leaving? It’s pretty simple – they’re bored. They’re disengaged. They believe that they aren’t important to your nonprofit – that their donation doesn’t make a difference.
Donor retention can no longer be ignored. If you want to raise more money, you MUST pay attention to your donors, not just their money. It’s about how they FEEL, and again, if you’re an average nonprofit, your donors don’t feel much of anything from you.
The good news is that it’s easily fixed. Step one is to think like a donor. If you’re the donor, what do you care about? What warms your heart? What turns you off? Get a piece of paper and write down the answers to these questions. Ask your coworkers what they would care about it they were your donor. Spend some time on this and see what you can come up with.
Step 2 is to go directly to the source. Ask some of your donors what they care about. What part of your organization matters most to them. What turns them on? What could they care less about? Again, write it all down. See if their answers match yours. If they don’t match, it doesn’t matter, because their answers are the ones that count.
Step 3 is to change how you talk to them. Know that you know what matters to them, write interesting, meaningful newsletters filled with stories and tidbits that they will want to know. Share heart-warming stories. Give them something to care about.
If you follow these simple steps, you’ll shift your perspective and be well on your way to complete donor-based fundraising.
2. Be consistent in communicating with donors and prospects.
Once you the messaging nailed, be consistent in sharing it.
Have you ever had a friend that the only time you heard from them was when they wanted something? I think we all have. And you’re probably showing up as that creep in your fundraising.
If all you do is show up in the mailbox or inbox with your hand out, congratulations, you’re a Professional Beggar. Trust me, it’s not going to work out the way you want. You can’t ask, ask, ask and build meaningful relationships.
Remember that your donors are valuable resources. They’re your partners in mission. Don’t you need to communicate with your partners regularly? (Hint: yes you do).
Lay out a schedule for newsletters, eblasts, and any other communications you plan to send to your donors. Put it on a calendar. Then stick to the plan. Building those relationships is THE most important thing on your plate. Make it a priority then stick with it.
I talked with a client this week who told me about some donors who had given a $5,000 gift (which was a big gift for his young nonprofit). That was 18 months ago, and he hasn’t spoken to them since. I doubt he’s sent a regular newsletter or done much of anything to help the donors feel good about their decision to give. What do you think the chances are of getting another gift, especially at that level? Mmm hmmmm. Not so hot. It can be done, but wouldn’t it be easier to just make nice-nice with donors from the get-go? Wouldn’t it be easier to stay in touch with the regularly and avoid the problems that radio silence creates?
Go figure out your communication schedule. Now. I mean it. Write it down and stick to it.
3. Make your donor the hero and help them feel it.
One of the best shifts you can make is to stop thinking of donors as a checkbook and start seeing them as partners in your work.
When you think of them as a checkbook or ATM card, you don’t have to care about their feelings. And that’s when the problems start. That’s when apathy sets in. That’s when donors start to look around at other nonprofits who might actually care about them. And BAM, you just lost them.
Here’s the truth: Your donors make your nonprofit’s work possible. Unless you’re funding it yourself, you need other peoples’ money to make the magic happen and change lives.
Your donors are the heroes. Even the ones who only give you $5. Treat them accordingly.
How should a hero be treated? With a lot of respect and admiration. They’re a top priority. They get the best of everything and deserve it. With sports heroes, we throw parades in their honor. For military heroes, they get discounts at their favorite restaurants.
Now, think about how you are currently treating your donors. Are you respecting and admiring them? Are they your top priority or do they get a phone call returned when you get around to it (after paperwork and everything else is done). Are you giving them your best? If you’re not too proud of your answers, go change it. You’re not a tree- you can move.
Make sure that everything you send to your donors makes them the hero and helps them feel that way. Review everything (newsletters, thank-you letters, social media, etc.) before it goes out for herotization.
These are pretty dang important shifts you need to make in your fundraising. And it’s time that you make them.
If you choose not to – maybe you’re too busy or maybe you don’t want to get on this ‘donor kick’ – you’ll continue to get the kind of results you’re getting now.
But if you want something different – if you want to raise enough money to fully fund your budget in a way that you can repeat year after year – well, you better buckle up Buttercup and implement what I’ve laid out here. Pay attention to your donors. Communicate consistently. Make them the hero. And your fundraising will change.
After all, it’s the Year of the Donor.